Assagioli gives sound advice as to how we deal with parapsychological faculties, never to overestimate them nor to dismiss them.
By Roberto Assagioli (1961). Translated from Italian. Original from the Magazine UOMINI E IDEE, January 1961, Year III, n. 1. Original Italian Title: Le Facoltà Parapsicologiche – Perché Interessano – Pericoli Del Loro Uso, E Come Evitarli. Parapsychological Faculties – Why They Are Interesting. The Dangers Of Their Use, And How To Avoid Them. From the Assagioli Archive in Florence. See also the free ebook: Psychosynthesis and Parapsychology.
If we observe in a dispassionate and sincere way how humanity, including ourselves, generally acts, the ease, the recklessness, and we can also say the unconsciousness with which decisions are made most of the time, [we realize that] we throw ourselves or let ourselves be involved, even in important activities, without realizing the motives that drive us to what we are committing to, or to the consequences we face. And it is easy to see the innumerable errors, dangers, and sometimes disasters that result. If this is true in general in every field of human life, it is particularly so in the very obscure, deceptive and treacherous field of parapsychology. Therefore, in this field, perhaps more than in any other, it is appropriate, indeed obligatory, that before venturing into it we make, a serious examination of conscience, which is particularly necessary for those who wish to develop parapsychological faculties.
If we ask ourselves why we want to do this, we discover that our motives can be many and that they sometimes come together in different proportions. The main ones are: the fascination exerted by the extraordinary, the marvelous, the curiosity, the future, the acquisition of powers and personal advantages that can be drawn from it, the desire to know and to penetrate the mystery of the human soul and life. Not any intuition, on the other hand, of the admirable higher potentialities latent in us, nor the intention of drawing a beneficial and humanitarian use from them. Well, let us ask ourselves sincerely: which one (or more) of these motives is driving us?
A second question that we should ask ourselves and take seriously is: what does the development of parapsychological faculties require? In this regard there are often, indeed I would say generally, some curious illusions. It is believed that one can attain that development by dedicating oneself to it without serious preparation, without a precise program, without guidance, without method, regularity and discipline. Yet it is known and recognized that in order to achieve other purposes – such as learning a trade, a language or a tool – those conditions are necessary. Why shouldn’t they also be in a much more difficult and insidious field? It is therefore necessary to be clearly aware of the needs, requirements and methods required.
The third necessary question is: what are the effects of this development, and if there are harmful or dangerous ones, how to avoid them? Finally, it is good to ask ourselves if we are aware of the responsibility we assume: what use do I propose to make of the powers that I am able to acquire?
What I am about to say is intended to offer elements to better answer these questions.
Let us first make a quick examination of the nature and variety of parapsychological faculties. From our present knowledge, however imperfect, we can establish the following points: the existence of those faculties is certainly demonstrated. They are found at all times and in all places. Therefore, they are nothing extraordinary, nothing wonderful. This is very useful to understand, because it removes that aura of emotional exaggeration, and the charm of the extraordinary (not to mention the extravagance) to which research in this field often inclines.
In all likelihood, these faculties are latent in all of us, and are often active to some degree without our noticing. This too is a very important point both theoretically and practically. If these faculties are latent in everyone and if we are in this field as […] like one wrote prose without knowing it, it is good to realize it.
To be specific: I believe that we are very often the dupes and victims of telepathic influences that we do not notice. In addition to the blatant and brazen suggestion of political influencers and aggressive advertising, I believe that there are many other more subtle and disguised, but equally powerful influences on us, and that very often we believe that we are the ones who think, feel, and therefore act, while in fact we are only channels for great collective currents or of the strong thoughts of others. These telepathic faculties are not proof of any superiority on the part of those who possess them and are possessed by them, as not a few people mistakenly deceive themselves or claim. This is obvious, if we just remember that many animals also have them, and that they are very common among primitives. Therefore, in this field, any presumption of a sense of superiority is a sign of ignorance and ridicule.
Let’s quickly see what the types and varieties of this faculty are. There are two large groups and modes of action: the receptive and perceptive faculties, which in turn are divided into two categories. First there are horizontal, that is, extrasensory perceptions: psychometry, receptive telepathy, precognition and mediumship in general. Then there are vertical receptive faculties, so to speak: intuition and inspiration, which could be called forms of higher telepathy. The other category, that is in a certain sense opposite, is that of projective faculties, for example of magnetic or pranic action, which has the effect of mummifying organic matter and healing action. Then there are telekinesis and transmissive telepathy. We certainly cannot examine how each of these faculties develops on this occasion, but we can make considerations, advise caution, and indicate tasks of a general nature valid for all, or for the main groups of them.
The first task is that of recognition, that is, it is a question of recognizing the genuine faculties from the spurious ones; real phenomena from illusory ones. This discrimination, as is well known, is very difficult. It is necessary to use a healthy scientific spirit, without preconceptions in any sense, without a priori skepticism, without inhibiting impositions on the one hand, and without easy credulity on the other.
I will give an example in this area: a phenomenon for which discrimination is particularly difficult is that of voices. Quite a few people hear voices. Now, these can come, either from one’s own unconscious, or from subpersonalities that are formed in our unconscious. Psychoanalysis has clearly shown how this tendency to personification is a normal function of the human psyche, and how around every important tendency of our psyche there are aggregates of psychic elements, images, impulses and feelings that tend to organize themselves into subpersonalities.
Aside from psychoanalysis, there are also writers who have given good examples. I will say by the way, that there is much more psychology in great writers than in psychological treatises. Various writers whom I have mentioned, who heard their characters speak, heard their own inner voices; the character acquired in them a certain autonomy and spoke, and the writer did nothing but transcribe these internal voices. One among others is Dickens. Pirandello then even dramatized this phenomenon in his comedy with the significant title, Six Characters in Search of an Author. The characters would be the primary thing. In this case we are obviously not dealing with anything parapsychological, but with cases a little at the edge of this personifying function of our psyche, and of the presence of subpersonalities in the unconscious of all of us—something that each of us should carefully examine.
Secondly, the voices can come from psychic currents and or even from embodied beings, caught telepathically, but which do not concern us. This is one of the cases of that unconscious telepathy, of that unconscious telepathic reception, which I think is very frequent. And even here, these are parapsychological, as they come from extrasensory influences, but they have no particular meaning for us. They are not to be taken on or appropriated. In this field, as well as in practical life, there are other people’s attitudes that do not concern us at all. Another hypothesis is that these voices come from very specific centers of consciousness that send real messages to us.
Well, it is very difficult in these cases to ascertain the origin, because the subjective effect is the same whatever the origin of these items, and subjectively at first sight, these items have the same characteristics. So, it takes an analysis, a parapsychological psychoanalysis to evaluate the subtle, fine characteristics, the character of the message, and all this in order to be able, at least as an indication and probability, to recognize a probable origin. This is a problem that often presents itself to doctors and psychiatrists. A patient comes who has more or less delusional ideas and says he hears voices. Psychiatrists generally let people talk and […] and don’t believe it and they say that these are illusory things, that they are evidence of insanity, and they order electric shock treatment or sedatives. Now this is excessive, and it is certainly not up to the standards of parapsychological science as currently recognized.
The opposite extreme occurs when people hear voices and immediately believe that they are voices of spirits, of entities, without taking into consideration the other two possibilities. As I said, it is very difficult for a doctor […] A psychiatrist, an expert in parapsychology, such as Prof. Urban, has posed this problem in his psychiatric clinic in front of these patients. Every doctor and every psychiatrist, who should have a parapsychological training, must face this problem, which has a scientific and therapeutic element of great importance.
A second point: that of the dangers of the parapsychological faculties and their development. The dangers are real, and they can be more serious than is generally realized. Here the well-known parable of the sorcerer’s apprentice, of the apprentì sorcier, who had learned from his master the formula to evoke the spirits of the water and therefore to make the water come at will, is fully valid. He used them in the absence of the Master despite being forbidden, and if the master had not arrived in time, they threatened to drown him because he did not know how to stop them and send them away. This is what often happens in this field. Enthusiasts, fanatics, try to evoke parapsychological influences, but then they don’t know how to control them; they don’t know how to protect themselves from them, and they can become victims.
This happens especially to those who have a passive, receptive, and mediumistic constitution. They are like houses in which the windows and doors are always left open. We know that unfortunately in the city, even when doors and windows are kept closed, thefts and attacks can occur by some unfaithful servant or guest, or by someone who opens the door with forged keys. But, of course, it is much easier for thefts and assaults to occur when access is free and unguarded. The same situation applies for psychics and psychics who not only do not protect themselves, but welcome any impression, any influence coming from the surrounding psychic environment, which is often not of a high level. Other causes of disturbance are erroneous and unbalanced emotional and mental reactions of the subjects themselves to the phenomena that occur through them. Some show excessive credulity, are impressed and attribute an exaggerated importance to these facts; in others, however, those phenomena instill fear and terror, and can arouse ideas of persecution.
But even those who do not have such erroneous or exaggerated reactions can suffer great harm from an excessive and reckless use of their parapsychological faculties. I will briefly mention two cases I have observed. The first is that of an experimenter who, following an excessive use of his bio-radiant faculties, experienced extreme exhaustion and a sense of vertigo, almost to the point of losing consciousness. Another kind of ailment that he has had – so it is not uncommon – is that of feeling in himself the symptoms and sufferings of those whom he is treating. This phenomenon has been called “repercussion.”
Considering these influences […], [some people believe that] the use of these faculties should always be strictly discouraged or even prohibited. To this we can answer that it is neither appropriate nor possible for various reasons. First of all, the prohibitions and the knowledge of the dangers in many cases increase attention rather than diminish it. Second, diverting serious and prudent people from this field leaves it in the hands of exploiters and the deluded. Third, the unconscious and passive manifestations can be more dangerous than a conscious activity. Fourth, these faculties can greatly extend and deepen the knowledge of the human mind. Finally, they can be used for beneficial purposes, for example in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
This brings us to the third point: mastery. In order to eliminate the dangers and instead make a beneficial and positive use of the parapsychological faculties, it is necessary to come not to suffer them, not to be possessed by them, but to master them and to direct them consciously. This can be done, and there are examples of those who have succeeded in doing it. The fundamental method of acquiring such mastery can be called the development of the witness consciousness. Note that this witnessing awareness is just as useful with regard to normal psychological activities as it is to parapsychological ones: another example of the fact that there is no clear distinction, there is no substantial difference between one and the other.
I can indicate a certain exercise with which one comes to disidentify oneself from the various paranormal contents of the psyche and at realizing the spiritual Self, which alone has the power to govern all the phantasmagoric collections of phenomena that take place in the psychic world. It is a question of distinguishing our Self, our true being, from the body, emotions and mental activity. This is an experience of great importance, and whoever has had this experience, whoever has felt—who has consciously realized—their own spiritual Self as clearly distinct from the body, emotional life and mental activity, has the intimate — non-communicable, but for him irrefutable proof — of immortality, of the essential difference between what is spiritual, permanent, superficial and intangible, and what is instead the phenomenal flow of the world of becoming.
There are also special self-protection exercises. They can be summarized as creating an aura or sphere of protection through the use of creative imagination. It is necessary to realize that the imagination truly creates in the invisible world, and sets in motion energies that can also act on the material world. All psychosomatic medicine is proof of this: hypnosis and suggestion are proof of how intense images have motor responses and also modify physiological functions.
It involves visualizing oneself surrounded by a protective globe or sphere. But this must not be visualized as a thick shell in which one is enclosed, but as a magnetic field formed by rays emanating from us. We can visualize them as white and shining, or golden. You can create this protective aura in the morning and keep it throughout the day. It is more effective and becomes not only protective but also beneficial if we use those rays of strength and light as powerful vehicles or waves of higher feelings, especially of faith, joy, courage, and love. They constitute powerful psycho-spiritual energies that dissipate all negative influences, and are carriers of good to other beings, to whatever sphere of life they belong. In all these ways we can become conscious lords of our inner kingdom, utilize its wondrous potentials and extend our awareness and mastery ever further and higher into the unlimited sphere of the great mystery.
 Prana in Hindu or Tibetan medicine refers to the “breath” or life force that permeates all beings, including inanimate objects.